Practice Pitching Like the Pros

In this week’s pro tip, local pro Jason Rudolph, explains why and how to practice a critical part of the short game. If you want to shoot lower scores and practice like a pro, then read on.

A typically under-estimated part of every golfer’s game is the short game. Practiced ability in pitching, chipping and putting is what always separates decent players from the really good players. After spending over five years at Torrey Pines Golf Course watching and talking to numerous PGA Tour players, I can say that this is the one area of their game that they work on the most. The best comment I have ever heard from a tour player was from David Duval. A reporter asked him why he spends so much time around the greens. His comment was “I can hit the driver just fine, but from 100 yards and in is where I will win or lose a tournament”

If you want to improve your game and start shooting lower scores, work on this area of your game. One way I practice pitch shots at different yardages is to set targets. Starting at 25 yards, I’ll lay down a small towel on the ground. Then I will go about every 15 yards and put another target out until I have six targets on the ground from 25 to 100 yards. When I start hitting, I will take aim first at the 25 yard mark and work my way up to 100 yards, hitting about 25 balls at each target. Some of you may not have time to hit that many balls during a typical practice session, so perhaps you can start at 10 balls to each target. Another challenge could be that you just cannot run out on the range (and into the line of fire) to set targets if there are other golfers on the range. If that’s the case, try to find other targets at varying distances, like a drain, the edge of the teeing ground, a brown patch of grass. A laser range finder works well for this drill whether you are setting out towels or finding existing targets to use.

Make sure you use proper technique for pitching and make note of how many balls you put on or near your targets. If you start using a routine like this and do purposeful and deliberate practice, you will hit more greens and find you have a lot more makeable putts after shots from 100 yards and in – and that, will lead to lower scores. Of course, this drill only covers part of the short game. Don’t forget to spend time practicing chipping and putting too.

 

Dave Pelz – Games To Make You A Better Putter

Find the Right Putter for Your Game

In a round of golf, more strokes are played with the putter than any other club. Most people know they need to practice putting, but the challenge is with how and what exactly to practice. In his book, Dave Pelz’s Putting Games, Dave Pelz outlines how golfers should go about assessing their overall putting skills and playing a number of games (or drills) focused on improving areas of weakness. For this edition of the MyMetroGolf Magazine Pro Tip, we spent some time with his great book to give you a feel for how it can make you a better putter.

His book starts off with explaining that there are seven areas of putting and not all amateur or professional golfers are weak or strong in the same areas. He says it is therefore important to know exactly which of these seven areas you need to practice:

  • 3-foot putts
  • 6-foot putts
  • Makeable putts (10 to 20 feet)
  • Breaking putts (with at least 6 inches of break)
  • Intermediate putts (20 to 30 feet)
  • Long lag putts (35 feet or more)
  • Three-putt avoidance

Dave Pelz explains that it will do your game little good to routinely practice 3 foot putts if you cannot lag a long putt to stop within a reasonable distance of the hole. He also points out that most amateurs can benefit more by avoiding three-putts than they can by making more putts of any length. As a former NASA research scientist, Pelz backs these claims and others with extensive research through observing, charting, and tracking players of all skill levels.

Dave Pelz’s Putting Games, therefore, is not a book about the putting stroke or how to putt. He says to check out his book, Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible, for that information. This book focuses on assessing your game and employing the games that make putting practice fun and effective. While there are six chapters, the heart of the book is centered on three chapters covering Performance Games, Games for Stroke Mechanics, and Games for Touch and Feel.

Performance Games are those that help a golfer assess their abilities and identify strengths and weaknesses in their golf games. These games should all be played to get a well-rounded assessment. With some help (a friend to retrieve balls and help with measurements) and a wide open practice green, you can move through all the Performance Games in about an hour. Otherwise, if you have to share the surface with other golfers or need to do your own measuring, charting, and retrieving, it might be best to split the Performance Games across a couple of sessions or more. Each of the seven games assesses your performance against each of the seven areas described earlier. Once armed with that knowledge, it then becomes a matter of selecting and playing the specific games from either of the other two sections to improve your putting.

Games for Stroke Mechanics are particularly useful for golfers needing to improve their short (3- and 6-foot) and makeable putt performance. The games focus on four stroke fundamentals, as Pelz calls them. Those four fundamentals are:

  • Putter aim (practiced through the Aim Game)
  • Matching your path to your intended line (Path Game)
  • Putter face angle (Face-Angle Game)
  • Ball contact (Impact Game)

Games for Touch and Feel are more focused on the mental side of putting. They involve the ability to see the line on breaking putts and having the right feel and confidence to stroke long putts the correct distance to leave a short, high percentage second putt. These games help golfers improve in these areas:

  • Imagining the speed on breaking putts of 6 – 10 feet (Short-Touch Game)
  • Controlling distance on putts from 10 – 30 feet (Makeable-Touch Game, Intermediate-Touch Game, and Feel-for-Speed Game)
  • Lag putting to minimize second putt distance (Lag-Touch Game)
  • Learning to optimize putting rhythm (Rhythm Game and Preview Game)

Pelz is quick to point out that on long putts, there are too many factors like wind, surface imperfections, and the like which influence long putts. And so, he has a scoring system based on putts that finish at or beyond the hole and within a specific range. He uses a 34-inch range to score a long or lag putt as in the “Good Zone.” He then provides a scoring map for these kinds of putting games with different scores based on the distance from the hole that a putt finishes.

Throughout the book, Pelz provides details on how well a professional golfer performs on a given game and contrasts that with amateurs of varying skill levels. That provides a solid benchmark against which a golfer can assess themselves as well as goals to which to aspire. He ends with some words of caution of games NOT to play. Those games, Pelz says, provide the wrong kind of feedback and ingrain poor habits. In particular, he calls out the game “Aces” – a game that rewards long made putts but doesn’t factor in leave distance. He also says putting to a small diameter hole, something some golfers feel improves their touch, can be counterproductive by encouraging golfers to die their putts at the hole rather (which leads to short putts too), rather than stroking them firm enough to reach the hole and finish within a very high percentage second putt length of 17 inches.

Overall, the book is entertaining, simple and straightforward with some good principles based in Pelz’s own golfing research. As the author of numerous books and articles and a teacher who has worked with almost 200 golfers on the PGA and LPGA Tours, Pelz knows what he is talking about. He has several games and drills that can be performed in small areas – perfect for improving your game at home through the off-season.

WinterStone Still A Blast, Despite No More Blasting

There’s still a limestone mine below WinterStone Golf Course in Independence, but there are no more rumbles under the feet of players in mid-afternoon as in years past.

Mining has moved to an adjacent site, leaving only occasional faint sounds of blasting, according to WinterStone club professional, Kane Chapman.winterstone2

But having a golf course over an active mine was more of a novelty than anything else on a course that can hold its own to any in the Kansas City region for natural beauty, intriguing design and challenging golf.

WinterStone, opened in 2003 in northwest Independence and unfolds over rolling, wooded terrain in a country setting.  The holes on each nine ascend gradually to a crescendo, before meandering back down to the clubhouse.

“Players comment about how this course is a little different than others in the area,” Chapman said. “It reminds them of the Ozarks, with all the elevation changes.”

Designed by noted golf course architect Craig Schreiner, WinterStone has ample landing areas off the tee, but demands accuracy in fairway and approach shots, often from sidehill lies.

winterstone7“There are not really any truly blind shots,” Chapman said. “Just about everywhere you hit from where you can reach the green, you can also see the flag. There are no big surprises.”

Creeks and a pair of lakes bring water into play on seven holes, requiring long drives off two of those holes to keep the ball dry.

The course has four sets of tees, ranging from 4,976 to 6,752 yards. The lengths can be deceiving, however, as frequent uphill shots require an extra club or two.  The course carries a 73.6 course rating from the gold tees, or back tees, and a 133 slope rating.

“The course looks like it should set up better for the better players, but we have players of all skill levels that really enjoy playing the course,” Chapman said. “The fairways have some generous landing areas, but if you miss them you could have some issues.”

Players can count on good lies on the zoysia fairways and true putting on the bent grass greens. The course is noted for its fine condition.  Additionally, there are few, if any courses, that have a more convenient practice range than the one found just a few steps from the WinterStone clubhouse.

WinterStone has competitive green fees, with twilight discounts after 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Discounts are also offered seniors, over age 55, and to junior players. Annual fees for play with or without a cart, and reduced for juniors and seniors are also offered.  Added to all that, lessons are available from the course’s professional staff.winterstone1

The course also has The Club card, which permits golfers to play WinterStone and five other courses for $34.99 per month plus a $20 daily fee, including cart. The other courses are Tiffany Greens, Dub’s Dread, Eagles Landing, Deer Creek and Alvamar. Tee times can be made up to four days in advance.

WinterStone is the place to turn to for corporate, charitable and other tournaments and special events. The course will provide a tournament price that includes golf, carts, scoring, rules of play, sponsor placement signs on holes, and awards ceremonies.

out_from_pavThe Pavilion, a snack bar and lounge with table seating for 120 next to the clubhouse, will post digital scoring on flat screens for tournaments and host awards ceremonies and meals before or after the event.

With an elevated and picturesque view of the golf course, the Pavilion is the perfect place to spend a little “debrief time” following your round.  It can also be rented for wedding receptions and other events, with room for up to 150 people.  Surrounded by windows, The Pavilion can be used open-air or enclosed for climate control.

WinterStone is located at 17101 E. Kentucky Road just east of Highway 219. Its website is winterstonegolf.com and the phone number is 816-257-5755.

Tee Off 2014 – Drivers

Grip it and rip it is outdated.  In this age of adjustability and drivers with more settings than your old VCR, perhaps the new terminology ought to be Set it, Grip it, and then Rip it.  Its been ten years since TaylorMade brought us the R7 with its changeable weights, and just five years since Nike debuted a driver with an adjustable hosel to change lie and face angle.

Today, it seems almost all drivers feature some degree of adjustability, although those that don’t still pack in plenty of technology and features.  What follows is a review of some of the top drivers in terms of performance and popularity.

Perhaps the driver receiving the most buzz this year is the TaylorMade SLDR.  Their “Loft Up” ads and tagline are the result of the need for golfers to buy a driver with a bit more loft than they are typically used to because of the low and forward center of gravity (CG).  TaylorMade set the CG low and foward, as opposed to low and back, to promote low spin off the club face.  Low spin, for higher swing speeds and at the right loft, means more distance.  The club also features a 20-gram moveable weight mounted on a track along the sole.  Moving the weight to the toe promotes a fade while moving it to the heel will help create a draw flight.  Added to all this is the Loft-sleeve that has been featured on other TaylorMade models and allows loft and lie adjustments to one of twelve different settings.

Remember the Callaway Big Bertha – the driver that revolutionized metalwoods and started the era of increasing driver head sizes?  Well, it’s back.  The 2014 version of the Big Bertha is a 460cc version that piles on new technology designed to create a longer, straighter ball flight – something almost all golfers are looking for.  The adjustable hosel can add up to two degrees of loft or reduce it by one degree.  Along the back of the club is an 8-gram weight that, like TaylorMade’s SLDR, is mounted on a track allowing the weight to be locked in one of multiple positions.  Unlike the SLDR, though, the track is along the trailing (back) edge of the sole, placing weight in a more traditional place to promote a higher ball flight.  Golfers will need to work with a fitter to get the settings just right for their particular swing speed and shot shape, but once dialed in, the Big Bertha will yield long fairway splitters.

The Nike VR_S Covert 2.0 has perhaps the most unique design of all the drivers this year, representing improvements over the original Covert driver.  Like its predecessor, the 2.0 version features a cavity back design with a sizeable wedge removed from the back of the clubhead to position weight at the toe and heel and promote a straighter ball flight from a more stable head through impact.  The end result is a very forgiving club that provides a significant amount of forgiveness.  While introduced in a striking red finish, Nike recently revealed a matte black version.  The hosel allows the club to be adjusted from 8.5 degrees of loft up to 12 degrees.

Ping has a pair of drivers worth noting as well.  The Ping G25 and i25 drivers are aimed at different types of golfers and bring a host of features to their respective designs.  The G25 is a distance driver with a matte black finish on a slightly elongated head shape.  Its a fairly high launching, mid spin driver meant to help golfers launch the ball high and straight and should be very appealing to golfers with slower swing speeds.  Its hosel allows a half degree of loft adjustability.  The i25 is a very low spin driver that provides a low piercing ball flight with plenty of distance.  For its shape and design, its a straight driver that still provides some ability to work the ball left or right, as needed.

These manufacturers have many more options available, as do numerous other clubmakers.  The new drivers of 2014 have kept improving on the technology of their predecessors, allowing anyone with the knowledge to dial up their desired ball flight.  Just remember to set it – before you grip it and then rip it.

Avoid The Laid Off Backswing

The golf swing is dependent on correctly doing the previous move. Therefore, a solid takeaway promotes setting the club correctly at the top of the backswing, which in turn promotes returning toward impact with the club on the correct plane, path and face angle.

Many players create a poor position at the top of the backswing. While the goal is to set the club correctly at the top of the backswing, many players allow the club to get across the line or laid off at the top. Both positions can lead to undesirable results. The club should point to the target at the top of the backswing.

top-backswing-across_the_line

 

When the club points to the right of your body and the right of your target the club has come across the line. The prototypical swing positions the club pointing toward the target and parallel to the target line at the top of the backswing. Many players pick the club up too steep during the backswing, resulting in the top position across the line. Blocked shots to the right and hooks are a common result for getting the club across the line at the top of the backswing. The picture to the right demonstrates the club across the line at the top pointing to the right of the target.

 

Many recreational players allow the club to reach a laid off position at the top of the backswing. The club is laid off when the club points away from the golfer and left of the target line at the top of the backswing.

top-backswing-laid_off

From a laid off position the hands must rotate quickly through impact. Shanks often result when the hands do not rotate quickly enough. A shank results when the hosel of the club head strikes the ball causing it to squirt off to the right. Additionally, players often pull the shot causing the ball to start to the left of the target.

The following tips are designed to get the club set in the proper position at the top of the backswing.

 

 

Set up to the ball correctly. Check your alignment and be sure your body is lined up parallel to the target line. If you set up with your body open to the target line it can encourage a laid off position at the top of the backswing. On the other hand, if your body is lined up to the right of the target line it can encourage an across the line position at the top of the backswing. Position your feet, knees, hips and shoulders square to the target line.

The proper take away also helps position the club correctly at the top of the backswing. A flat and inside take away can lead to a laid off backswing. Try to avoid the club head getting behind the hands during the takeaway. Place an object such as a head cover about a foot behind the ball positioned just inside the target line. Take the club head back low to the ground without touching the object behind the ball. Also, avoid the object on the downswing. This drill will help swing the club on a vertical swing plane, rather than a horizontal swing plane. In addition, it will help position the club correctly at the top of your backswing instead of pointed across the line or laid off to the target line. Be sure the club points to your target at the top of your backswing. Practice with a friend standing behind your or in front of a full length mirror to check for the correct position.

Matt Keller is a PGA Golf Professional with over 15 years of experience. Matt is a graduate of the Penn State PGM Program. Throughout his career he has worked at courses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and Delaware. Matt has conducted thousands of golf lessons to players of all ages and ability levels. Currently, he is a PGA Professional at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club located near Bethany Beach, DE.

Liberty Hills – Golf At The Peak

The grand dame of Northland golf, Liberty Hills resides in a comfortable countryside setting five miles north of Liberty. At 6530 yards and playing at par 70, it is one of the shorter courses in the Kansas City area, making it an especially easy course to walk. But don’t mistake the distance for a lack of challenge.

Opened in 1967 as the first country club north of the river, the course features unusually narrow fairways and, resting at the highest point in Clay County, is subjected to more than its fair share of crosswinds. The beautiful greens are protected by numerous pot bunkers with water hazard through the middle of the course.

The combination of challenge and accessibility gives Liberty Hills its charm, while the friendly, community feel of the club brings loyalty from its members.LibertyHillsAerial

“The experience my children had in junior golf and swimming was the best,” said Lyle Kraft, a member for over 30 years. “I’m now seeing the same experience with my grandchildren. There’s no question (it’s a family and community experience). It’s a small, niche family setting and it’s still a great course. My kids always loved to come here and roam the whole complex. The staff is willing and excited to have the kids and now I’m watching my grandkids come out and do it.”

“I have played on over 100 golf courses in my life and Liberty is a course that grows on you,” said Carol Travaglione, a member since 2007. “It’s a challenging course and one that many of the members can enjoy being able to walk the course. ”

Members often cite the easy walk-ability of the course as contributing to the tight-knit community experience.

“It’s a very walkable course,” said David Eide, a 15-year member. “Most of the groups walk. I think the pace of play is still pretty quick.”

“It’s a great walking course,” agreed Kraft. “You don’t have to have a cart. You can still get exercise.”

LibertyHillsHole

“Number three is an interesting hole,” said Manager Sam Klos. “Our members will play it differently sometimes. People will take chances on it.”While strolling at Liberty Hills, players will find plenty of challenges to suit every type of game, particularly at par 4 number three, a short (342 yards) dogleg right which entices newer players to go for broke. But danger awaits with a slightly misplayed shot in more than a dozen pot bunkers and a sparse fairway.

“I’m not a long hitter, but I come with some people and they’ll take the risk and go for it,” Kraft said. “You can get in trouble pretty quick there.”

The rest of the course presents it’s own challenges.

“There are a lot of people who come out and see that it’s not that long, and they are big hitters, but they find out it’s got pretty tight fairways and small greens,” Kraft said. “Most of the holes, you run out of bounds pretty quick.”

“Hole number six (a par 5 and, at 537 yards, the longest on the course), I think every year it gets narrower and narrower,” laughed Eide. “And more challenging, and that makes it more fun. The whole course is fairly narrow and the rough is tough.”

Number nine (par 4, 392 yards) hooks around to the left over water to the green, requiring an exacting approach shot for a chance at birdie.

The challenges of Liberty Hills has helped produce a number of fine golfers, including Kearney’s Ryan Zech, who won All-State honors in Missouri for three years and was named the 2011 Kansas City Metro Player of the Year before becoming one of the Missouri Tigers best performers.

“Don’t miss this unique opportunity to play one of the most prestigious semi-private courses in Kansas City,” invites General Manager Megan Marshall. “The course offers multiple tee-box options as well as a golf course that presents tree-lined fairways and expansive greens that provide a true roll. Come experience an enjoyable round of golf that does not take five hours to play.”

“It’s a beautiful layout with sand traps, lakes and greens that compare to some of the five-star country clubs in the metropolitan area,” Travaglione said. “It’s a great place to unwind and relax.”

While some golfers come for the beautiful course and unique challenges of play, many simply enjoy the unhurried countryside atmosphere.

“I’m primarily at the club for golf and to socialize,” Eide said. “It’s a very sociable atmosphere and a friendly staff. I’ve actually met more people from other clubs at Liberty Hills, intermingling and socializing.”

LibertyHills-wall

“It’s a neighborhood course and I have made a lot of really great friends playing golf at Liberty,” Travaglione said.

Liberty Hills has just put the finishing touches on re-sodding the back nine with Zoysia grass, to match the front nine and replacing the old blue grass. While it will take time for it to come completely into full growth, it is already becoming lush and beautiful.

Re-sodding is the primary improvement made since Great Life purchased the course in April, 2013, and Marshall believes their efforts have been well received.

“I think (members’ response has been) good,” she said. “I think they’re pleased with the price and care of the course. The initial reaction (when we bought it) was ‘oh, great, here’s somebody else coming in’, but I think we’re showing we care about the members, about moving forward and taking steps to bettering the course. I think we’ve had good reactions.”

“The new owners have made a genuine effort,” agreed Travaglione, “to involve the members in creating a fun golfing experience for everyone.”

The course became available to Great Life after it sat mostly dormant for part of two years following a January, 2012, fire which destroyed the clubhouse. The club has since struggled to restore its membership ranks to a level needed to rebuild the clubhouse. It had reached a nadir when Great Life’s Rick Farrant and Doug Albers became co-owners, but they have already begun to turn it around.

“We thought that it was close to Staley (Farms) and a nice perk to have and be able to play, that’s where the intention was (behind the purchase),” Marshall said. “The price and location were good and it would help build the Great Life brand in Kansas City.”

However, Marshall cautions that they are still trying to recover some of the original Liberty Hills glory.

“We’ve only owned the course for a year and we’re still trying to get it out of bankruptcy,” she said. “The fire was a big deal to overcome. These things don’t happen over night.”

With approximately 350 current members, Liberty Hills hopes to continue adding to their rolls before taking on the next challenge. New members joining now would have an opportunity to help restore the club and get in on the ground floor of a newly rebuilt clubhouse experience.

“We’d like to get to the 400 number,” Marshall said. “That’s the sweet spot before we can move forward (with a new clubhouse). We already have renderings and ideas about what we want to do. Pretty much everything is set in place.”

LibertyHills

Once they reach the magic number, the clubhouse can be constructed in “eight to 12 months,” according to Marshall, but even then ownership will remain committed to the Great Life ideal of affordable family-style memberships.

“That’s the Great Life model,” she said. “Affordable costs for every family type. We don’t plan on doing outrageous memberships. We’re not going to go really high. We hope to keep the same exact price. And a nice thing about Great Life membership is the opportunity to play other courses.”

In the meantime, the golf course, the driving range and the swimming pool (which opens Memorial Day weekend) are all available to members, and as part of the Great Life association, members can also take advantage of amenities at other area courses, such as the workout facility at Staley Farms. Liberty Hills’ pavilion is also available for outdoor events, such as graduations and wedding. The club will continue to host popular men’s and women’s leagues, and a variety of entertaining events for members.

The total package at Liberty Hills makes for a great value.

You don’t have to convince the members, who Marshall says “are our best advocates.”

“Liberty Hills was recommended by many of our close friends,” said Kathy Steward of their relocation three years ago, when they were looking for a residential and golfing community with a championship course to match their previous lifestyle in Wichita. “We found that Liberty Hills met all our golfing needs, such as ease of accessibility for tee times, friendly staff and practice facilities. We have played many courses in and around the Kansas City area. Liberty Hills rates up there as one of our top picks of courses in and around Kansas City.

“We would recommend golf on ‘The Hill’ to anyone wishing to enjoy a nice round of golf in the country air.”

Golfers Do, Learn, Buy, and Get Ready at the Kansas City Golf Show

Golfers filled the Overland Park Convention Center on February 21st through the 23rd and experienced just about all golf has to offer at the Kansas City Golf Show.  There was something for everyone from trying out and hitting all the latest golf equipment to instruction for adults and kids alike.

“This is always a great show for us.  A chance to share with the golfing public what our golf course has to offer,” said Brandon Marshall, Head Golf Professional at Ironhorse Golf Club.  That sentiment was shared by other exhibitors at the show, but they weren’t the only ones singing the event’s praises.

“We come just about every year and every year this show gets better,” said KC area golfer, Carl Stevens.  “I’ve been trying out the new Big Bertha driver on the range and then spent some time watching the Match Play tournament over at the 19th Hole [by Michelob Ultra].”  He went on to indicate that he had enjoyed a few beers as well.

Throughout the show, the range was one of the more popular places, as major manufacturers were letting golfers have a go on the indoor driving range.  The newest offerings from Ping, Callaway, Nike, Titleist, TaylorMade, and more were on display with experts on hand to offer advice and help golfers find, and try, the latest equipment.

Meanwhile, fun of a different sort was occurring at an entire practice area dedicated to getting kids started in golf.  The SNAG (Starting New at Golf) program brings a new approach to learning golf to area schools, and they had their program on display at the Kansas City Golf Show.  It uses oversized balls closely resembling tennis balls and oversized clubs designed to make it easy for youngsters to make contact and send a ball flying.  Young golfers were getting basic, fun instruction while they hit, chipped, and putted using the special equipment.  Hosted by the Midwest Section PGA, they are offering a set of summer camps this year to complement the highly successful school program.

“We’ll have four levels of camps this summer, with something for all levels of junior golfers at local green grass golf facilities,” said Julie Roberts, PGA Professional and General Manager at Minor Park Golf Course.  She included, “The camps are 2-day schools running 3 hours each day.  We’ll have a Level 1 program which is our SNAG iNtroduction camp for kids as young as the second grade.  Depending on a golfer’s level and age, we’ll also have what we call our Level 2 and Level 3 programs, as well as an Elite camp for older, advanced golfers in 8th through 12th grades.”  For more information on any Midwest PGA program for kids, visit their website.

For folks planning a golf trip or just planning their local golfing for the year, the choices were endless.  Local courses were on hand to share their programs, pricing, and new information, while numerous golf resorts and destinations including those from the Lake of the Ozarks area and other destinations. Brent Deems, Assistant Golf Professional at The Preserve at Rathbun Lake, had traveled from his popular destination to share what his golf course had to offer in conjunction with the Honey Creek Resort.  “We get a lot of golfers from the Kansas City area, mostly through our association with the golf show here,” he said, indicating they have been an exhibitor since 2009.  Their resort, and the rest of Rathbun Lake and all it has to offer, is a mere 185 miles away from Kansas City in south-central Iowa.  Some of the local golfers hanging around the booth shared that its a great course that has something for everyone and no difficult forced carries.  With multiple tees, it stretches from 5254 yards for shorter hitters, all the way to 6987 yards for long hitters.

Speaking of long hitters, many of the area’s self-described big hitters were huddled around the Robertson Entertainment booth and their TruGolf Simulator.  Throughout the day, they were hosting long drive contests and closest-to-the-pin competitions, with winners taking away bragging rights and free rounds of golf.  When we were there, 336 yards was what it took to win one such contest, with several other contestants reaching the 300 yard mark.  The closest-to-the-pin offered appeal as well.  Playing to 153 yards, it took a shot to 5 foot range to expect a chance at winning.  There were multiple contests each day and golfers could enter as many times as they liked to hand over the cost of entry, so even if you didn’t get your best swing on the ball during one contest, you could try again.

Kim Robertson ran the competitions and shared a bit about her company.  They sell and rent indoor golf simulators to individuals wanting the ultimate man cave or for corporate events and golf course sponsored winter competitions.  “Before getting into this business, we tried all the simulators on the market looking to find which offered the best combination of accuracy and fun, ” she said, “and we landed on TruGolf.”  Golfers interested in a simulator for personal use or for rental for an event, can contact them through their website, www.indoorgolfkc.com.  Besides the competition at the Robertson Entertainment Booth, golfers were competing at a long putt contest and other fun, but very competitive, competitions.

Finally, the golf show had a lot of options to buy new golf equipment, games, training aids, and more — even a new golf cart!  Edwin Watts had an expansive on site golf shop with show discounts and deals on everything from clubs to apparel.  Some discounters and re-sellers were on hand and apparently, any offers were welcome.

 

 

5 Big Storylines For The 2014 PGA Tour  

With 2014 underway, golf fans are excited for another year of PGA Tour play. The Tour has become very different in the past few years, with Tiger Woods’ absence atop major leaderboards allowing more players to generate buzz and snatch titles. But now that Woods is once again holding the #1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, this year figures to be an absolutely fascinating one on Tour. Will Woods regain dominant status? Will players who have been winning in the past few years continue to challenge him? And which newcomers will rise to the top on the big stages?

All of these make for intriguing questions and topics heading into 2014. And to take them a step further, here are the top five storylines for the year in pro golf.

1. Will Tiger Woods Win A Major In 2014?
Really, this is the question of the year. And if the early betting odds are to be believed, the likely answer is yes. Taking a look at the Betfair online betting numbers for PGA Tour events in 2014, Tiger is listed with the best odds to win all 4 major events. The Masters is, according to that site, his most likely win at odds of 11/2. TigerWoods_1But because no predictions site can truly nail down what will happen, the real question may be how many majors Tiger can win and not whether he can win one.
2. Can Rory McIlroy Bounce Back?
There’s no way around it for Rory McIlroy: his 2013 campaign was a serious disappointment. He had no wins, missed the cut at The Open Championship, and failed to finish in the top-20 at The Masters or U.S. Open. Still, most seem to expect a strong bounce back for McIlroy. And just as Tiger has the best odds to win each major, the oddsmakers are putting McIlroy at second best in each event. It will be interesting seeing what effect a dominant Tiger might have on McIlroy.  So far, Rory seems to be on the right path.

3. Are New Champions Here To Stay? 
The two names that come to mind are Adam Scott and Justin Rose, both of whom won their first majors in 2013 and look poised to stick around. Henrick Stenson is another heavyweight who broke through (though not with a major) last season. Keeping an eye on the staying power of these players should be fascinating. Also, looking at the betting odds, each should have a strong 2014.

4. Can Phil Mickelson Finally Win A U.S. Open?
This doesn’t require a whole lot of analysis, but until Mickelson completes his career Grand Slam, it should be on the list every year. With so many runner-ups to his credit, the feeling is that it’s bound to happen eventually.  This year’s US Open at Pinehurst is a poetic place for him to breakthrough considering his playoff loss to Payne Stewart the last time it was played there

5. Who Will Burst Onto A Grand Stage?
Most years, we are treated to a few new names breaking through on big stages. But, really, it’s impossible to predict them. However, one popular pick to break through is Matteo Manassero. The young Italian is No. 43 in the world, and certainly seems capable of some big-time wins.  Other young guns come to mind and a few veterans can always have a breakthrough year.

One thing is for certain, it will be a fun and exciting year of golf…and its already getting interesting.

The Importance of Aim and Alignment

Poor aim and alignment is easily one of the most common mistakes in the set up. Watch any elite player and notice how they pay attention to little details such as the direction they are aimed. Rarely do you see a PGA or LPGA player line their body to the right or left of their target, unless they are trying to shape the shot. If you watch them practice, they routinely place a club, umbrella or stick parallel to their target line. This reinforces little details such as the correct alignment. Over ninety percent of the golfing population routinely slices the golf ball. Yet many aim their body to the right of the target. This forces them to hit the shot to the right of their target or manipulate the swing path so they hit the ball toward the target. aim-1

Aim is known as the direction you are attempting to hit the golf ball. A golfer will aim at their target. Therefore, if a player is attempting to hit the ball straight the club face is square to the target line. Note the golfer pictured on the left has placed a stick on the ground to help reinforce proper alignment. A club will work just as well.

Alignment is the direction the body is lined up in relation to the target. If a player is attempting to hit the ball straight their feet, knees, hips and shoulders should all be lined up parallel to the target line. In addition, the club face should point toward the target. Think of the target line as an imaginary line that runs through the golf ball toward the target.
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Altering alignment is an easy way to promote a draw, hook, fade or slice. Produce a draw by aiming the clubface down the target line. Position the feet, knees, hips and shoulders to point slightly to the right of the target line. This is called a closed stance and can be seen at right. From this set up position, make a normal swing. The clubface will be slightly closed at impact causing the ball to curve from right to left. If the club face is significantly closed at impact the result will be a hook. A hook turns much more severe with a right to left ball flight.

A fade is produced by setting up opposite of a draw. Aim the club face down the target line. However, the feet, knees, hips and shoulders will be lined up slightly to the left of the target line. This is called an open stance and can be seen below. You will make your normal swing and impact should result with a slightly open clubface. The ball should start left and curve back to the right. A slice will have a much more severe left to right ball flight.
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Observe any elite player and notice their pre-shot routine. Typically they pick their target and proceed to line up from behind the ball. Your vision can also alter your set up and alignment. Everyone is either left eye or right eye dominant. If you line up from the side of the golf ball, it is easy to line up incorrectly right or left of the target. Therefore, in your pre-shot routine, it is extremely important to pick a target and line up from behind the golf ball. Approaching from behind improves your vision and success rate of lining up correctly.

Matt Keller is a PGA Golf Professional with over 15 years of experience. Matt is a graduate of the Penn State PGM Program. Throughout his career he has worked at courses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and Delaware. Matt has conducted thousands of golf lessons to players of all ages and ability levels. Currently, he is a PGA Professional at Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club located near Bethany Beach, DE.

A Short Trip for A Great Round at Hoot’s

The Fourth of July back in 2002 probably arrived with its own celebrations and excitement, but for the folks at Country Creek and the golfers that frequent their golf complex, that day held intense interest for other reasons. Hoot’s Hollow, the newest eighteen hole creation of Jeff McKee’s opened and began hosting golfers willing to take on its many challenges. The Rock and The Quarry, the other courses at the Country Creek complex, have long been known as the “Best Value” in Kansas City Golf by many metro golfers. However, Hoot’s added new features and a different kind of layout to create a unique and challenging golf experience. The course features a unique Scottish links-style double green (shared by number 9 and 18, an unforgettable island green, a number of blind shots, and several doglegs that, unless properly negotiated, could lead a ball directly to water. club_house_sm

Designed by Jeff McKee, the course features rolling Zoysia fairways, fescue rough, and Dominant Plus bent grass greens. Set near Pleasant Hill, Missouri, the course sprawls across what was once cornfields and farmland. That meant the architect had plenty of natural terrain to work with, resulting in wide-open fairways, deep roughs, and most importantly, some wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. A short drive south on either 71 highway or 291 Highway (depending on your origin) will land you in the middle of the Country Creek golf complex and put you on the path to Hoot’s Hollow. Contrary to what some metro-area golfers may believe, the trip to Pleasant Hill is a quick one and nowhere near the images of a long trek halfway to Oklahoma.

Perhaps a favorite part of the course is the overall design and layout, with something unique in store for golfers on each hole. There are no overly long forced water carries or a lot of sand to worry about and most trouble can be negotiated safely. During the summer months, tall prairie grass will swallow up a wayward ball, but most holes provide a good shot at an open fairway. The open layout also brings the wind into play on many holes and, as typical in summer months, the prevailing southerly winds need to be heeded when selecting a club or start line.

Hoot’s Hollow’s signature hole is the par 4 sixteenth. From the tips, the hole is 409 yards, but a strong south wind can add a good 50 yards to an already difficult hole. Two fingers of a lake come into play on both the drive and second shot. Three mounds along the left side of the fairway can make for some uneven lies and difficulty reaching the green. A drive that goes right leaves a long second shot into a green that is perched above a rock wall with a lake in front and a peninsula landing area. An over-sized green punishes those golfers who bring a shaky putting game and find themselves with a lengthy lag to get close. The hole is certainly challenging, but also picturesque. Enjoy the view as you make your way past the sixteenth’s trouble.

To provide a little more detail as to what you can expect at Hoot’s Hollow, here is a bit of a hole-by-hole summary:

#1 – The first hole is a 393-yard Par 4 downhill that allows the golfer to get some confidence early in the round. The hole plays completely downhill and the golfer is not punished for an errant drive. A bunker in the front right provides some protection, but it didn’t come into play on our trip as the hole was cut back left. Chances of making par or better are very good regardless of position of the tee.

#2 – The 420-yard Par 4 second comes back uphill towards the clubhouse, which makes it play a bit longer than the yardage indicates. Mounds on both the left and right come into play on a drive off the fairway. As the golfers approach the hole, they are greeted by a deep undulating green with a pot bunker on the right. Chances of making par or better are increased with a drive on the left side of the fairway.hhmap

#3 – The 415-yard Par 4 third plays back down the hill and is fairly similar to hole #1. However, a lake surrounded by tall prairie grass on the left will punish a drive that strays too far off the left fairway. A bowl on the right side of the green will punish an approach shot that drifts too far off course leaving a tough chip. Two bunkers in front of the green protect the putting surface. Best chance for par or better is a drive right down the middle of the fairway.

#4 – The first par 5 of the course comes in the form of the 559-yard Par 5 fourth and this is the hole where the character of Hoot’s Hollow comes out. Water is in play off the tee, but with the south wind it is rarely an issue. Three mounds on the right take going for the green in two out of the question for a drive that is off the right side of the fairway. A pot bunker on the left is the least of a golfer’s problem as the most difficult green of the course awaits with a menacing gathering area punishing an approach shot that is far from the hole. Best chance for par or better is a drive on the left side of the fairway. The south wind helps those golfers daring enough to go for the green in two.

#5 – The 355-yard Par 4 fifth is a tricky dogleg featuring water all along the right side, mounds on the left and a peninsula green. A drive that is errant on the right will find the water as the fairway slopes towards the lake. Best chance for par or better is a drive in the right middle of the fairway.

#6- The sixth hole is a 207-yard Par 3, and is the first Par 3 of Hoot’s Hollow. The South wind makes the hole longer by a few yards and a bunker on the right protects the green that slopes to the left.

#7 – The 446-yard Par 4 seventh features a blind tee shot that lands in a fairway that slopes towards the water on the right side. Golfers are greeted with a two-tiered green after doglegging around the lake. Best chance for par or better is a drive that is on the left side of the fairway.

#8 – The eighth hole is a 152-yard Par 3 seventh playing about 20 to 30 yards longer than the scorecard indicates depending on the ever-present South wind. Nestled along a lake and hitting into a huge green with several undulations, a golfer could get into trouble if the proper club is not selected.

#9- The 485-yard Par 5 ninth is reachable in two with a good drive off the tee. OB is in play if a golfer is trying to cut the corner and three mounds attempt to pursued a golfer to take the safe route. A rocky ditch on the right can cost strokes if the approach sails right. Also, a golfer could find their ball on the wrong side of this huge double green that serves as the green for both 9 and 18. Par or better is attainable on this hole, but the drive must be on the left side of the fairway. A drive that sails right will increase the distance of the hole.

#10 – The backside starts off with a 588-yard Par 5 that forces heavy hitters to leave the driver in the bag off the tee because of a small pond waiting 300 yards off the tee. The second shot goes back up the hill towards a green that is sloped front to back. The whole is wide open, so the only trouble would be to put a tee shot into the water. Best chance for par or better is the middle of the fairway.

#11 – The 440-yard Par 4 eleventh features mounds on the left and 2 traps on the front left of the green. The elevated tee box allows the hole to play shorter than the yardage dictates, but the south wind can push tee shot into a bit of trouble. Trees hinder an approach shot that follows an errant tee shot that sailed right. Best chance for Par or better is a drive on the left side of the fairway.

#12 – The 369-yard Par 4 twelfth is a dogleg left that features mounds on the left side and two traps that surround the green. A slightly elevated tee shot is counteracted by an uphill approach leaving a partially blind shot into the green. Best chance for par or better is middle of the fairway off the tee.

#13 –The 397-yard Par 4 thirteenth forces the golfer to hit a straight tee shot. Mounds on both sides and two trees in front of the green reward precision and punish inaccurate tee and approach shots. The undulating green sits in a valley. Best chance for par or better is in the middle of the fairway off the tee.

#14 – The 510-yard Par 5 fourteenth is a gentle dogleg right with trees pinching both sides of the fairway. The green is narrow and deep and surrounded by OB in back and a pot bunker on the right. With the help of the South wind, the putting surface is reachable in two. Best chance for par or better is a tee shot to the left side of the fairway.

#15 – The 192-yard Par 3 fifteenth features a lake behind a green that slopes back to front. The southerly wind pushes the tee shot to the left of the hole.

#16 – The 409-yard Par 4 sixteenth is the signature hole of Hoot’s Hollow. It is a difficult hole when the south wind is blowing. The second finger of the lake fronts the large green. Best chance for par is a drive to the right side of the fairway and avoiding both fingers of the lake on either the drive or the approach.golf_water_sm

#17 – The 172-yard Par 3 seventeenth is an island green ringed with huge rocks. A long approach to the huge two-tiered green can make for a big score unless a golfer confidently sends a ball to the proper tier.

#18 – The 379-yard Par 4 eighteenth features a rocky ditch along the left side and mounds on the right. The green is a familiar site as it shares the surface with the ninth hole, but has more undulations for the golfer finishing up their round.

The nineteenth hole features a deck to sit out and watch other golfers finish up their front nine or their round while enjoying a beverage of their choice and a delicious sandwich from the snack bar located inside the Beautiful Clubhouse of Hoot’s Hollow.